Pruning Fig Tree

Hi,
We have a 30 year old Brown Turkey Fig and it's time for a pruning. It's reaching about 12'high and 16'wide. We've not cut it back since moving into the house 5 years ago, but I'm expecting the previous owners did from time to time. So my question is would you recommend a radical pruning or just 3'-4' all around? It produces wonderful fruit so I'm a little nervous about doing a radical cutting, but our neighbor says go ahead and whack it back and it'll grow right back. So before getting out the hand saw I wanted to get some other opinions.
Thanks!
Brandon http://www.hostaplants.com
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Brandon, so long as you don't take off more than a third of the tree's foliage by volume, should not be a problem
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You won't kill it if you cut it to the ground, but why would you want to trim it at all. Mine is even larger than yours with roots on some limbs 18 to 20 feet from the main trunk. Me & my neighbors pick all the figs we want at ground level and the birds & bees have a feast 6 foot up.
Tom J
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I go for aesthetics and practicality first. Cut out those low branches that get in the way during mowing or harvesting. Either cut them all the way back or get rid of any that droop or hang downward from a main limb. Thin out any branches that are crossing or are just too dense. Look at how much you cut out then go with the 1/3 principle of not prunning more than a third of the total tree at any one time. More than that can harm the tree as well as lead to increased production of suckers from the trunk and roots and decreased fruit production. While you neighbor is right that it will grow back even if you cut it to a stump, you will be fighting many years to get the growth back under control and waiting for the next good crop. Gary

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V_coerulea wrote:

Thanks everyone for the great advise. I think I'll go with the aesthetics and practicality approach, and get rid of the lowest branches that are resting flat on the ground. Then cut back everything else a couple feet. I definately don't want to lose a season of fruit. We canned 20 jars of preserves last year and probably could have canned more if not for the crazy birds that take one little nibble then move to the next fig and do the same thing! The reason I'm wanting to prune is the fig is starting to crowd other trees, plants and a walkway, and especially if it grows another 2-3 feet this year. Anyway... Thanks again. I'm guessing the first of February will be a good time to prune here in Georgia? It starts warming up by mid march.
Brandon http://www.hostaplants.com
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Take some cuttings and root them in sharp sand or pearlite.
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Brown Turkey is a fig fruits on this years wood, so you wont cut off the fruit. but OTOH, you dont want to shock the tree and send it into completely new growth either so advice below is very good. yes, now is a good time to prune. Ingrid

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Since figs fruit on new wood, it's time to cut the tree back if it's crowding. You got great advice on thinning crossed branches and lower ones, and cutting the ones near the bottom will prevent those from rooting (which is how I got my own fig tree, from a lower rooted branch that barely touched the ground of the original fig tree at Mary Emma's). I can personally say I cut mine too close to the ground about five years ago and regretted it a lot.
It caused me to be a bit lax in the opposite reaction.
This fall, I cut the main branches back hard to five foot tall, so that the new shoots would grow double on the branches. Last year I didn't prune at all and let the fig grow unfettered and it scared the hell outa me and grew to almost 19 foot! To reach delectible figs that were indeed larger than usual (which made me wonder if it was the age of the roots, or the uncut stems........hmmmmmmmmmmm, any comments??) I had to gently bend the branches down to where I could harvest them. Not an easy task when you're only 5' 4" and the tree has 19 foot branches. Encounters with delirious hornets and wasps was a careful observation. I had to make sure I wasn't surprising some feeding frenzy of insect delight and accidentally get stung as I grabbed a succulent sweet fruit.
And the pecks from birds was a given. I just cut off the peck, and ate the fig if it was a large one. I even left some hanging on the crooks of the branches so that the ants and little insects had food. One must not be greedy with the bounties of nature..........It will be interesting to see how my fig tree responds to my sheering it back to five foot tall all the way around. It opened up the southwest side of my yard so much it was almost scary. Like opening a window! Go with how you want to prune it, just don't wait too long as it's about time for the dormancy to be over and new growth will be fruit bearing.
madgardener
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